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Bruni Brewin JP

Australian Hypnotherapists Association -

President Emeritus – AHA (Life)

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- Does The Dr Know Best? -

By Dr Norman Swan and Jaya Balendra - Updated September 29, 2015

Monday 28th September 2015

When we head to the GP most of us assume "the doctor knows best". But the truth is, many of the scans, tests and procedures ordered by medical practitioners are wasteful, unnecessary and potentially harmful.

"What do you think would be the reaction of the average person in the street if they knew what you knew?

"Well, I think they'd be quite alarmed." Health Economist

Healthy people are needlessly being turned into patients with tests and scans leading to treatments which at best have no effect, and at worst, cause harm.

"The surgery doesn't seem to affect the outcome any more than if you did a pretend surgery." Leading Clinician

"Patients are receiving care that is sometimes ineffective and sometimes unsafe." Health Economist

And it's costing us a fortune:

"You know we're just wasting hundreds of millions of dollars sending people off for unnecessary tests and exposing them to unnecessary radiation." Health Researcher

In this special edition of Four Corners, guest reporter Dr Norman Swan reveals the real story behind the malaise in the Australian health system. A malaise driven by waste, rather than a lack of money.

"Increases in health care costs have been driven a little bit by (the) ageing of the population, a little bit by increases in the costs of technologies, but the largest drivers are over diagnosis and over treatment." Health Researcher

Focussing on four common health complaints - back pain, knee pain, chest pain and prostate testing - Dr Swan shows how the cost to patients and taxpayers is escalating. Analysis by Four Corners found billions of dollars being squandered and more than a hundred inappropriate tests and procedures receiving Medicare rebates.

"We're headed for a tsunami of over diagnosis." Health Researcher

And as one interviewee explains, part of the answer lies with the public:

"If people knew that health interventions, tests and treatments were not going to deliver benefit, I think they might make different choices." Head of medical oversight body

The pointless medical procedures costing Australia $46 BILLION a year | Daily Mail Aus | 28 Sep 2015 -

For the full story click on the picture above.

The questions to ask your GP or Specialist -

Ask for the evidence, says Professor Harris.

"I think patients should be asking for the evidence.

They should be asking for the evidence that they will be better if they follow course A or course B," he said.

Questions to ask before you get any treatment

   What are my options (including doing nothing i.e. waiting and watching)?

   What are the risks and benefits of each option (including doing nothing i.e. waiting and watching)?

   What are the chances that these risks and benefits will apply to me?

(These questions were developed by Karen Carey, former chair of Consumers Health Forum and trialed by Heather Shepherd of the University of Sydney.)


I am not a Medical Practitioner.  The information on this page is not to be taken as medical advice, but to allow you to do your own searching and taking that information back to your health practitioner  or specialist to find the answers you are looking for before embarking on procedures that may not be relevant or help your condition.

When we are sick or in pain we do not realise that what is done, or not done, in the GP's surgery can set us on a journey to a place we may not want to be.

Adam Elshaug, Associate Professor of Healthcare Policy at Sydney University, is an authority on what is called low-value care and has identified at least 150 unsafe, inappropriate or ineffective medical services that receive Medicare and health insurance rebates.